Hops could fall out of favour in craft beer industry as brewers look to barley

Heavily-hopped beers may be on the way out as farmers continue to raise the cost of their crops, according to Sharp’s beer sommelier Ed Hughes.

“The beer industry has been too hop-centric for several years,” Hughes told the drinks business.

“What we’re starting to see now is more brewers experimenting with traditional flavourings like malted barley.”

Hops have dominated the craft brewing for nearly a decade, but a combination of high demand and new agricultural advances could mean that the crop’s reign is coming to an end.

A new study published this week in the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists has found even more notable differences in the taste of beers malted from barley varieties than previously thought.

The researchers, led by Oregon State University, said the findings are an important first step toward a potential new market for beer connoisseurs.

Pat Hayes, one of the experts leading the study, told Eurekalert: “We started this project with a question: Are there are novel flavours in barley that carry through malting and brewing and into beer? This is a revolutionary idea in the brewing world. We found that the answer is yes,”

“These positive beer flavour attributes provide new opportunities for brewers and expanded horizons for consumers

The news comes as hop farmers continue to raise the premium on their bittering crops as the craft beer industry continues to grow worldwide.

Hops are commonly imported from the US, where prices for the popular Cascade variety have soared by up to 60% in the past year, according to James Cuthbertson, director of Sussex-based craft brewery Dark Star.

Sharp’s sommelier Hughes likened the popularity of the ingredient to “overfishing.”

“When I was a kid, monkfish was a sort of throwaway fish,” he said. “You could buy it very cheaply, but since it became popular the prices have been driven up, and that’s the same with hops.”

Diversification will be one of the key beer trends of 2018, according to Hughes, who added that he believes other drinks such as barley wine are also about to see a surge in popularity.

“What we’re seeing across the board that the beers being produced are far more balanced than previous years,” Hughes said.

“I wouldn’t think it’s fair to call heavily-hopped beers a fad,” he added, “but we’re definitely seeing brewers experimenting more with malt, which will be a big win for the UK in particular.”

4 Responses to “Hops could fall out of favour in craft beer industry as brewers look to barley”

  1. Jeff the Drunk says:

    Nonsense! Balderdash! Fiddle-Faddle and Horsehockey!

    Hopheads will always be hopheads no matter what flavor compounds are discovered in barley, water or yeast.

    Is this really a big new concept? That flavor in barley carries through to the beer? There has always been a huge variety of barley and other grain malts to brew with – because they contribute different flavors to the beer.

    Show me a drinkable un-hopped beer, and then we can talk about hops “falling out of favor”

    Jeebus H Cruikshank!

  2. Jim Matzek says:

    Using different types of grains is not a new concept. You need a bittering agent. More balanced beers yes, a surge in barely wine, doubtful. I have not seen the tyoe of price increases on hops mentioned in this article… rather misleading and way off the mark.

    • qq says:

      Don’t forget that UK hop merchants have had to deal with exchange rates going all over the place, going from $1.50 to $1.20 and then halfway back in the last 2 years, so there was 20% just from the exchange rate effect. Conversely the US has been shielded from the increases in British hops to some extent.

  3. Mike Mahone says:

    Like many people, I don’t like bitter tastes. Don’t like detergent, paracetamol, hops, battery acid, etc. Malt, on the other hand, is delicious; its sweet, rich, aromatic and when brewed into barley wine is fantastic – just too strong.
    So what is it with brewers that they insist beer must be bitter? If not hops, then they have to put something else in to “bitter” it.
    My old Dad, when he was alive, brewed excellent beer and tried zero hop lales a few times, they were outstanding. Everyone who tried them agreed and wanted more. Neighbours would always ask when he was going to brew another batch.
    OK, so maybe there’s a law in some countries that says beer must have hops. Simple solution, call it something else, e.g. barley ale. Just please, please, get it into your heads that there are many who would love an ale that hadn’t been spoiled with nasty bitter tastes.

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